Duck hunters let very few things stand between them and hunting season, so when Robert Axtell found himself confined at home due to a knee injury and his upcoming surgery, he decided to take matters in his own hands. The 56-year-old resident of Muscatine, Iowa describes himself as an addict of the outdoors. His ailment meant that taking the trip out to the marshes was a challenging proposition.
“I knew if my knee was hurting me on solid ground, it was going to be excruciating trying to pull my leg out the mud with every step while I was hunting, but I didn’t want to miss a day of my hunting season,” Axtell wrote on his website. “As I thought about how I was going to be able to navigate with my bum knee I realized that though this was a temporary problem for me, for others it is a lifelong barrier to the activities they enjoy.”
Axtell came upon a solution when he wondered about walkers for people with leg problems. If the same principle can be applied on solid ground, what prevented it from being applied to the muddy waters of the Mississippi? As Axtell waited for surgery on his knee, the hunter started working on what he called the Mudbob Water Walker.
“The Water Walker I designed off-sets my weight and improves balance and maneuverability in difficult environments. Even with my bum knee I found when using the Water Walker I didn’t sink or trip in the mud and weeds and I was able to set decoys in the dark early hours of the morning and navigate all the spots I wanted to with ease,” Axtell wrote.
The function of the Water Walker is simple enough: it acts as a giant flotation device that hunters can grasp in order to make traversing through bogs and marshes easier. It even provides a dry area to store firearms and other gear. Axtell said he spent the last few years further refining the design so that it can benefit other disabled or elderly hunters as well. According to the Muscatine Journal, the hunter even loaned a few of the devices out to the local water rescue service.
“We’ve been training with it and he’s going to meet with us to make modifications,” said Ron Goodman, chief of Muscatine Search and Rescue. “We’ve used it two or three times in training, once on the river, and it works well. We’ll use it as part of our water rescue equipment.”
Axtell’s son Adam said that his father is looking into presenting the Water Walker as a rescue aid for places where larger devices and boats cannot access.
“There may even be a market for using this piece of equipment to assist in swimming pool therapy during recovery from injury or health issues. All these ideas are being researched at this time,” the younger Axtell said.
The Water Walker is still in an early phase of development, but interested buyers can purchase them online for $399.